THE CATACOMBS

catacombs

Image ~ Courtesy of BBC

A Prompt Response for Flasher Friday

This is my response to a prompt from Our Write Side to their Friday Flasher prompt. A short story in no more than 500 Words using four elements.

  • Place: beneath the streets
  • Character: a home builder
    Object: two new light bulbs
    Mood: tense

 

THE CATACOMBS

by John Yeo

  The family was gathered at a well-respected firm of solicitors to hear the reading of Grandfather’s last will and testament. Ruth, his daughter and her husband Wilfred, together with his two sons, Martin with his wife Maureen, and Malcolm, a confirmed bachelor. Seated around a highly polished old oak table in a wood-panelled room, with shelves full of law books, the atmosphere was tense.

    Mr. Perkins, the family solicitor cleared his throat, before proceeding.

   “This is the last will and testament of Mr. Horace Jones, Bricklayer, and Homebuilder.”

 Everyone present leaned forward in their chairs expectantly.

“I have nothing much in cash to leave except a challenge. I have mortgaged all my properties and turned my cash and collateral into an investment, that is located beneath the streets of the town of Middleburgh. I have deposited in our family tomb in the Catacombs, a secure casket containing the Jewel in my Crown, and I would like all present to get there if you are brave enough. The winner takes the prize.”

There were gasps of surprise all around the table, even Mr. Perkins raised an eyebrow at this surprise. Ruth fainted, and her husband Wilfred shocked, said, “We are both sufferers of Claustrophobia, the old rascal knew that I don’t think he has left anything at all!”

“You’re absolutely right!” Interjected Martin, “This is a Wild Goose chase the old felon was a gambler and probably broke, he is having us on from beyond the grave.”

Malcolm then spoke up, “Can we challenge this will? I will try to get there. I think this is total nonsense!”

 Mr. Perkins then said, “Yes, of course, the will can be challenged but what are you actually challenging? An alleged fortune, and who do you challenge?”

   It was Martin’s wife Maureen who came up with the idea of everyone going to the Jones family tomb together. “We will all be present at the opening of the box that way! We can take care of everything for the claustrophobic family members when we get there.”

“Good idea,” said Malcolm.

“Yes! We will come along as far as we can,”  said Ruth’s husband, Wilfred.

A week later found the party wending their way through the old catacombs to the tomb. Cobwebs were hanging everywhere, A strange tense mood had gripped everyone as Ruth and Wilfred had quickly given up. Their Claustrophobia mingled with Arachnophobia had made it impossible for them to continue.

A figure loomed up in the semi-darkness as an old man with a pronounced stoop stepped forward out of the gloom. “It’s OK!” he said grinning, “I’m the caretaker here, I have just fitted two new light bulbs along the corridor. We had a visitor last night, who broke into one of the tombs, we can’t figure out why.”

There was a shocked silence. The answer became obvious when they reached the ransacked Jones family tomb.

A year later Malcolm was happily retired in the Bahamas.

 

(493 WORDS)

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.

Friday Flasher

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EMERGENCY NICKNAME

A prompt response for ~ Inspiration Monday Emergency Nickname

http://bekindrewrite.com

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Image courtesy of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse

EMERGENCY NICKNAME

by John Yeo

  “Meet Foundling,” said the man commonly called the Beadle, “Foundling has been in this institution for 20 years now, she knows no other life but this, a move would probably destroy her completely.”
I shook hands with a tall young woman, her hair was brushed but hung lank down to her shoulders. Dressed in the plain issue clothes of the Workhouse, her obvious charming beauty, shone through.

“Hello Foundling, you have an unusual name, I have never heard anyone answer to a name like that. How did you come by it?”

“I don’t know Sir, I have always had that name, I have never been called anything else.” At this moment the Beadle broke in and explained.

“Foundling was abandoned on the doorstep of the Workhouse, as a baby, we took her in and as is usually the case, we gave her an emergency nickname. We did try to get her officially named, but she refuses to answer to anything other than Foundling. It is not our policy to force our residents into anything they are not happy about so she has been christened Foundling Smith.”

“What an incredible story!” I gasped, turning to Foundling, I said, “Are you sure you are happy about this unusual name? It could label you for the rest of your life when you get away from here.”

“Yes Sir, it’s OK, I have no intention of going anywhere,” Foundling said.

I turned to the Beadle and said, “You will have to break the news to the residents that I am here to close this establishment down. The government has decided that Workhouses have outlived their usefulness.”

The Beadle shrugged his shoulders resignedly and nodded. “The results of this drastic action will be in the hands of God.” He said sullenly.
It was then I realised how the effect of the closure would resonate throughout the whole establishment. The Beadle would also feel the effects.

Over the next few years, the old Victorian Workhouses were closed in England.
I was enjoying a happy retirement in Dorset, when I was intrigued to read in the Daily Times an announcement of the marriage of a Miss Foundling Smith, to the Earl of Richester.
That unusual name brought the memories flooding back. I have often wondered what became of the Beadle. I have a sneaking suspicion he was more institutionalised than any of the inmates.

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved

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http://bekindrewrite.com